A circa 1875 Gorham carved horn and silver match safe, featuring a highly stylized and intricate Japanese warrior figure on the base, with a stylized carp on the top - considered one of the great "match safe masterpieces" in existence by leading match safe scholar Neil Shapiro - is expected to bring $20,000+ in Heritage Auctions
' Sept. 26 Signature® Silver & Vertu Auction.
The piece is one of 200 match safes featured in the auction, all of which come from a prominent private East Coast collection. Heritage will be offering more than 1,500 rare American match safes from the collection in auctions over the course of the next 2 years.
"When it comes to match safes, there is no name more important than the Gorham Corporation of Rhode Island," said Tim Rigdon, Director of Silver & Vertu at Heritage Auctions, "and there are few match safes that are as important as the carved horn and silver masterwork that tops the grouping in this auction. It's one of two like it known and simply a beautiful piece of work."
Match safes, whose initial production dates back to the mid-1800s, were a crucial development alongside the growing 19th century use of friction matches. Due to the volatility of the materials used in making early matches, match safes became critical in the transportation and preservation of matches, and evolved into a well-loved and highly collectible form. Today, they are the subject of a devoted and educated collecting base.
"These beautiful little works of art will be welcomed with joy by collectors already in the know," said Rigdon, "and they will open a brand new market to dozens of silver and decorative art collectors who may not yet know much about the form but will certainly be charmed by the personality and craftsmanship that went into them."
A delicate circa 1875 California gold and gold quartz match safe, attributed to Shreve & Co. of San Francisco, CA, is another of the principal offerings of this grouping. The piece, composed of a geometric mosaic of rose, moss and gold quartz panels separated by gold bands to the front, is estimated at $6,000+, while an iridescent circa 1900 Tiffany & Company gold and enamel match safe, made for Tiffany & Co. by French goldsmith Georges le Saché, with raised and chased foliate design, cobalt blue over chartreuse enamel ground, is sure to be the subject of great interest when it comes across the block with a pre-auction estimate of $5,000+.
Animals are a traditional and very popular decoration for fine match safes, and the auction features several prime examples of masterful work, led by an unmarked American 1892 gold and enamel match safe featuring an English Setter in a pointing stance enameled to front, estimated at $3,000+, and a circa 1900 Reed & Barton silver and enamel match safe, with a detailed jockey on horse decoration on the front, is estimated at $2,000+.
Further highlights include, but certainly are not limited to:
Unger Silver Repoussé Match Safe: Unger Bros., Newark, NJ, circa 1900, with addorsed sea horse repoussé decoration. Estimate: $1,500+.
Carter Silver and Enamel Match Safe: Carter, Howe & Company, New York, circa 1890. Detailed tiger decoration enameled to the front. Estimate: $1,000+.
Gorham Silver and Enamel Match Safe: Gorham Manufacturing Co., Providence, RI, circa 1900. With four color enameled and etched Egyptian decoration to front. Estimate: $1,000+.
Shiebler Silver and Silver Gilt Figural Match Safe: George W. Shiebler & Co., New York, circa 1900. With figural alligator shape case cleverly utilizing the mouth as the hinged lid. Estimate: $1,000+.
Tiffany Silver and Enamel Figural Match Safe: Tiffany & Co., New York, circa 1880. Intriguing cigar shape with enameled brown cigar band within white borders. Estimate: $800+.
Heritage Auctions, headed by Steve Ivy, Jim Halperin and Greg Rohan, is the world's third largest auction house, with annual sales more than $700 million, and 600,000+ online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and gain access to a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit HA.com.